Visit Someone Else’s Garden for Inspiration

By Margret Delves Broughton, Public Relations

I find it ironic that every year, by the time it’s mid-summer, I am kind of over gardening.  Isn’t this the very moment I’ve been waiting for? After all, there shouldn’t be too many nasty surprises lurking on the horizon. Not a frost in sight. Everything that’s going to come up for the season has either already bloomed or at least it’s on it’s way. I have honed my Tomato-growing practice to a single, glorious plant (‘Red Currant’ this year). Shouldn’t I be strolling through the garden, feeling nothing but bliss?

But no. I find myself looking around, agitating about all the dull stuff that needs to get done. My Leucanthemum is starting to go past. I should get out there and deadhead the ones that have lost their color. I should also probably get my soil tested. I should deadhead my Nepeta. And my Alchemilla Mollis. I want to get better vases for my Dahlias. I should add lime to my soil to make them bloom better next year. I should plant more Blueberries and figure out some way to keep the birds away. The list goes on.

A visit to Michael Trapp’s garden in West Cornwall, CT, is a treat for anyone.

A few weeks ago, when I felt buried in garden busy-work, I got an email from The Garden Conservancy. There were open gardens in my area. Facing nothing but chores in my own garden, I headed for West Cornwall, CT, to see what other gardeners were up to. I had been to Open Days before but not for years. There was always too much to do at home, and I was sure that looking at other gardens would overwhelm me with jealousy.

In short, let me say that looking at other people’s rather perfect gardens has been the best way to rekindle interest in my own garden. It’s not that my garden compared favorably (in fact, it was quite the opposite), but it was exciting – and I don’t use that word lightly – to see the very personal and very concrete results of what must have been thousands (millions?) of decisions, many of which were probably challenged along the way.  It was like seeing the “after” pictures in a before/after series. You know how they can be  gratifying, even if you had nothing to do with the project? How it makes you think you can do the same thing, even if you don’t want to? It doesn’t matter! It’s fun just knowing what’s possible!

I think I need this pool. Thanks for showing me that it’s possible!

I got so hooked on Open Days, a few weeks later, I attended one of the Garden Conservancy’s Digging Deeper lectures at Twin Maples in Salisbury, CT. The subject was Exploring Twin Maples – The Evolution of a Garden. It promised a setting that “flows smoothly from architecture to nature, from formal garden to field, with extraordinary views of the Litchfield Hills.”  It made good on those promises and so much more (out of respect for the owner’s privacy, photographs are not to be published).

Visiting Michael Trapp’s garden made me realize that my garden is in desperate need of a bed or two of Ostrich Ferns and Ivy.

I could go on and on about what I saw, but instead I will conclude with the top 10 things I learned:

1. If I ever have a swimming pool, it will be 10′ x 60′.

2. Perennial wildflower meadows do NOT come from a can of seeds.

3. I must own a ‘Quick Fire’ Hydrangea. Or 10. The white blooms practically glow in the dark and they can bloom as early as June.

4. When in doubt, use Ostrich Ferns towering above any ground cover.

5. Growing six ‘Black Beauty’ Lilies is not enough. Go for around 100. Seriously.

6. Next year, I will stake my Dahlias with Tomato cages, and hang little tags on them to keep track of the varieties. Why didn’t I think of that before?

7. A garden without a destination is not a garden. Plant an orchard within a meadow, or put a stone bench just about anywhere.

8. Wildflower meadows look different every year.

9. There are very stylish ways to use common plants. Oh yes, there are.

10. No garden is too fancy to keep pets.

This is a corner of my own garden, occupied by Max on a hot day. He smushed the plants, but he looks cute, so he gets to sit there whenever he wants.

For more information about the Garden Conservancy’s Open Days program, click here.